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Petition! Instagram Users Are Banned From Using Hashtags

The concept of a shadow ban on Instagram is a much debated topic, and a controversial one. There is no real evidence that it exists and Instagram has never verified that there is such a thing. The shadow ban is a term used by the Instagram community as a description for when a user’s posts is not showing up under hashtags, which it would normally do. The “shadow” label is due to the fact that to the user, everything looks normal, but if you look at the posts from a non-following account, suddenly posts do not appear. If this “ban” has hit you, only your followers can see your posts, resulting in a significantly lower engagement.

There are basically two different explanations to why this happens. 1) Instagram is banning your posts because you have been engaging in some practice that Instagram defines as spammy. Like using the same hashtags over and over again, or using third party apps or bots to like or follow/unfollow hundreds of accounts. 2) It’s a glitch in the algorithm and you are just unfortunate to be affected.

Thousands are banned from Instagram hashtags
But about two weeks ago, the discussion around the shadow ban reached new levels. That was when many accounts got a message that they had to verify their telephone number to be able to access the account. Many even lost their accounts after this verification incident, others reported that suddenly months of posts were completely gone.

Suddenly hundreds if not thousands of users reported that their photos were completely blocked from hashtags, for no apparent reason. I’ve seen users with very small number of followers, up to one account that has 219.000 followers, all affected by this. And it happened to me too. I noticed on the image below that only my followers were liking and commenting. So I looked at the photo from an account that doesn’t follow me, and that’s when I realized that I had been banned from these hashtags.

 

That’s nine days ago, and I’m still banned. Here’s how my latest photo appears under a hashtag with my name (#hanskullin). Below is how it appears to me, the photo is visible under the hashtag. Above is how it appears from a non following account. The photo is now gone.

Petition to fix the hashtag ban
For many users who have spent countless hours perfecting their Instagram presence, this is a real blow. It is now practically impossible to increase the reach of your content or account. And since Instagram is not addressing the issue, users have started a petition called “Fix The Glitch! Innocent Instagram Users Are Banned From Using Hashtags!”

Petition initiator Adele Giles writes:

“From our understanding, normal ‘shadow banning’ is lifted within a few days. This has not been the case for us. This is not a typical shadow banning for users abusing the terms and conditions, this is a glitch that is affecting those who do not deserve it. We have checked if we are using banned hashtags, we have tried not posting or using Instagram for long periods of time, we have tried all that we can but this is in Instagram’s hands. We need you, Instagram, to help us innocent users get our content registering in hashtags.”

So far more than 700 people have signed the petition that will be delivered to Facebook and Instagram founders Mark Zuckerberg and Kevin Systom. Let’s at least hope that Instagram will acknowledge that there is a problem affecting innocent users and that they will find a solution.

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Many Instagram accounts deleted after recent hack

The other day it was revealed that Instagram had been hacked and contact information to millions of accounts had been leaked online. At the same time we started seeing reports of people having to verify their accounts by adding their phone number, even if it had previously been added to Instagram. Users were prompted inside the app to verify their phone number and then got a six digit code to insert. If users didn’t do this they could not access their accounts.

While this may have worked well for most users, others reported that their accounts were deleted or that they lost hundreds of their old photos from the app.

This happened to me as well this weekend and my account was effectively disabled for about 12 hours. But I was lucky that my account was restored. After inserting the code, my account got back online, at first without any of my old photos, but during a minute or two, old photos and followers were loaded back until all was back to normal.

For a few days now, many users are reporting that they have lost their Instagram accounts. One person in a forum I’m in, said on Saturday that she lost all photos from the last four months. Today, all those photos are back online again. 

Another person has had her account disabled for at least three days without getting it back. After 68 hours her account was restored. The way to get your account back according to this user is to click “get help signing in” then “need more help”. After that, fill out the form and click “my account was hacked” and describe what happened. Instagram Support will email you and “ask you to send a photo of yourself holding a paper with your name, user name, and a code they provide in the email”. Apparently this method worked.

Instagram has yet not responded officially to this incident, so we don’t know if it is related to the large hack from last week or not. Final word of advice, always secure your account with two factor authentication, which makes it a lot harder for hackers to get access to your account.

Posted in Crisis, Marketing.

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Hashtags on Instagram not working causes uproar among users

Many users are currently reporting problems with hashtags on Instagram. When some users upload photos that are tagged, their photos do not show up under the hashtags they used. I have read about this issue in discussion forums the last few days and yesterday it happened to me as well.

I uploaded a photo yesterday evening using about 30 tags, which is the maximum number allowed by Instagram. Normally after I have done this, my photo would immediately show up under the hashtags that I used. But now it didn’t. In fact, on the tags that I had used, almost no new photos from the last hour or so showed up, even on tags where there usually are new photos uploaded every minute, like #reflections.

It was soon obvious to me that this was an actual thing, not something that only I noticed in my app. Normally I get a small number of likes, say 10-15, during the first few minutes after uploading a photo. And many of them are from non followers because they discover my photos elsewhere than in their feed.

Now, however, notifications were almost silent. Only a single like or two during the first five to ten minutes, and only from followers. This was a clear sign that my photo was only visible to my followers.

Hashtags on Instagram aren’t working

So I started to investigate. None of the tags I had used displayed almost any recent photos. Some 30-40 minutes ago, some from an hour ago. My photo did not show up anywhere.

I logged in to other accounts but the results were the same, even for tags that I had not used in this photo. So had I been shadow banned? I don’t know, the concept of shadow ban is controversial and many experts say it doesn’t exist. Shadow ban is a theory that a user is somehow being punished by Instagram’s algorithm, resulting in their photos not being displayed under hashtags.

After about 2-3 hours the problem seemed to have been resolved and my photo was visible again on the hashtags. It even got promoted to the top 9 trending hashtags on more than 10 tags, so clearly all was fine again.

Users are upset

It was soon clear that this problem was affecting lots of people. Instagram tweeted out this weekend’s hashtag project and the replies to this tweet are mainly about the tag issue.

instagram_hashtags_not_working2

In a Facebook group about social media, people were frustrated because their photos tanked and weren’t displayed at all.

hashtagdiscussion

There does not seem to be a workaround for users at the moment, should this issue continue. My only recommendation at the moment is to check the hashtags before you publish and see if they are displaying recent photos. If not, maybe you should wait and publish later.

Also, check Twitter discussions and see if other people are having the same problem with hashtags. Then at least you will know it is a general Instagram bug and not someting that you did.

Footnote: follow me on Instagram for travel photos: @kullin


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My most popular Instagram photo, a gift from a spammer

Eye in the sky

Ett inlägg delat av Hans Kullin (@kullin)

Suddenly one day you think you might have cracked the code, that you will finally become an influencer on Instagram. Your photos, for no apparent reasons, are getting twice as many likes as they normally do, and the likes are coming in fast. Some 200 likes within 30 minutes is not something I am used to. And it happened on one image, then on another one the same day, and once again the following day. Three photos now had gotten about 400 likes, at least 150-200 more than they usually do.

Fake likes
But the sudden popularity of my Instagram account had nothing to do with my skills as a photographer. Instead, the likes were a “gift” from a spammer who approached me to sell his or her services (i.e. buy likes or followers). This was the message I received via DM:

instagram_likes

I admit that I was a bit suspicious, the unproportionate number of likes from Russian accounts didn’t make sense. But who knows? Instagram’s algorithm works in mysterious ways. My sudden fame in Russia could have a logical explanation. Unfortunately the explanation was fake likes.

The last few weeks, there has been an increase in spam on Instagram with accounts that sell fake followers commenting on a large number of photos. As influencer marketing continues to grow in importance, there’s also money to be made from inflating follower numbers on social networks. Just don’t fall for it. In order to succeed, you will need a fan base made up of real people.


Footnote: I am @kullin on Instagram. Follow for travel photos, sunsets and architecture.

Posted in Statistics.

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Obama’s tweets will be archived on @POTUS44 – but the 46th President is an “egg”

We will soon find out who will replace Barack Obama as the President of the United States – Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump. Obama has been the first president to truly embrace social media in all its forms and when he steps down, Clinton or Trump will take charge of the Twitter account @POTUS. The account will keep its 11 million followers but the new President will start off fresh with a clean time line, no old tweets will be attached to the account.

Obama’s old tweets will not be deleted, instead they will be transferred to the @POTUS44 account where they will be archived by the National Archives and Records Administration in order to preserve the material for future generations. The same strategy is in place for the other accounts associated with the Obama administration, like the @whitehouse which will be archived at @whitehouse44.

Future archives are “taken”
If this strategy continues over time, then some accounts may suddenly get some extra attention. A Mr. Phillip Jay White holds the @whitehouse45 account and the future archives of the successor to Clinton/Trump is an anonymous “egg” on the @POTUS46 account.

Naturally, the National Archives and Records Administration will have no trouble getting control of these accounts when thay day comes, but it will be fun to see if any of these people will become active and take advantage of the potential Twitter fame.

whitehouse45

potus46

Via Digital Trends.

Posted in Twitter.

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No, they’re not giving away Range Rovers on Facebook

You’d think by now that people could tell a fake giveaway on Facebook from a real one, but apparently not. There are currently a number of fake car giveaways on Facebook that have gone more or less viral. These giveaways often claim to hand out luxury cars to lucky winners and this time there are several scams regarding Range Rover 2016.

rangerover2016giveaway

How do I know they are fake? Well it’s incredibly simple to find out, but a lot of people don’t think or don’t care. So they participate and help the scammers build up their pages and spam their Facebook friends in the process.

The post above has been shared more than 60,000 times and the pages has now more than 30,000 followers. But it is all fake of course. No brand would give away three expensive luxury cars in a simple contest that so blatantly brakes Facebook’s rules.

If it’s the very first post on the page: Hoax!

If the URL is not a nice and short vanity URL like you’d expect from a large brand: Hoax!

rangerover2016giveaway2

So if you or your friends ever wonder how you can avoid falling for hoaxes like these, then maybe you should check my blog post about “How to spot a fake giveaway on Facebook”.

Posted in Marketing.

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